Category Archives: Communication strategies

Communication strategies for adult children living at home.

Answers to 3 common questions about adult children living at home Q1: How is parenting adult children different from parenting kids?

I tend to get asked the same questions over and over by both parents and reporters, so over the next week, I thought I would post answers to these common questions here on the blog. I hope you find these Q&As helpful. If you have your own question you’d like to see answered on the blog, please leave it in the comments or send me a note at

Today’s question: How is parenting adult children different from parenting kids?

Answer: This is a very big question, but here’s the short answer. Parents need to remember that their adult children are adults, so parenting them in the same way they did when they were little is not going to work. Parents do need to establish some rules for their adult children, but those rules will be based on the fact that the parents have a right to set some rules for anyone living in their home, rather than the, “I’m your Mom and I said so” logic from childhood. The parents can set house rules, but not rules for the adult child’s life outside the home.

Want to learn more about this question? Download my free report from the right column of this page, or check out my book, The Hands-On Guide to Surviving Adult Children Living at Home.

Stay focused on the goal

If you’re like me, you’re probably pretty much glued to your TV set this past week, watching the Winter Olympics.  I’m especially lucky, as they’re happening right here in Vancouver.

I was thinking about the sacrifices these athletes–and their parents–make to get where they are now, when I came across a great quote I wanted to share with you.

James Southam, who is competing on the U.S. Olympic cross country ski team, told his home-town newspaper about the experience of moving back home to live with his parents when he began pursuing his Olympic dream:

“Fortunately my parents saw this [training] as a job,” he said of dad Dean, a teacher, and mom Mary Anne, who ran a doctor’s office. “It wasn’t always fun for them having their 21-year-old son living at home, but we made it work.”

It’s a great reminder on the importance of staying focused on the reason your adult child has returned home, and helping them reach that goal.

It doesn’t have to be as ambitious a goal as becoming an Olympic athlete, but for everyone’s sanity there needs to be a stated goal, preferably with a target date.

If you and your adult child can view that goal as a job–whether it’s so they can save for a down payment, work to land a new job, go back to school, or get their life in order–it can help everyone get over some of the inevitable hurdles.

Communication Strategies for Adult Children Supporting Aging Parents at Home

I’m pleased to announce that I have recently launched a new book for adult children supporting aging parents at home.

In this valuable new guide, I’ve adapted my strategies that have worked so well for communicating with boomerang kids and completely reworked them to provide a communication plan for adult children and their aging parents.

You can find more information about Communication Strategies for Adult Children with Aging Parents Living at Home, or order a copy, here.

Video Tip: How to make sure you know your adult child is safe without imposing a curfew

Hi, this is Christina Newberry from If you have adult children in your home again, you may need some help renegotiating that parent–child relationship.

For example, it may not be appropriate for you to set a curfew for you twenty-seven-year-old daughter anymore, but it’s still perfectly reasonable for you to worry about her if she doesn’t come home when she says she’s going to.

Here’s a solution to this surprisingly common problem. Come to an agreement with your adult child that if they’re going to stay up past a certain time they’ll send you a text message either to your cellphone or
to your home email address.

Cell phones are so common these days that even if your adult child doesn’t have one of their own, they should be able to borrow one from one of their friends.

This way you don’t have to get woken up by your adult child calling to say they’ll be late an your adult child doesn’t have to be embarrassed calling their parents in front of their friends, and yet you can rest easy knowing your child is safe just by checking your messages.

College kids coming home for the holidays? You need to watch this video!

Hi, this is Christina Newberry from

If your children are coming home from college for the holidays, it’s time to talk
about what your expectations are and how you can all live peacefully together.

The relationship between parents and children will always be a parent–child relationship, no matter how will that kid may be. For example, an adult child coming home for the holidays may think that you’re going to do all the cooking and do their laundry, while you may be thinking that you’re going to get a break from cooking every night because that adult child is around to pull their weight.

If you don’t talk about this beforehand, you could both end up feeling resentful and angry. Open communication is the best way to prevent stress and arguments before they happen. So here are some things to talk about.

Number one: Household rules, including swearing and noise
Keep in mind that your adult kids got used to a whole new set of expectations at school, including what kind of language is appropriate to use, how loud music should be, and what time it’s okay to come in at night. Talk about what’s okay in your house  and what just isn’t.

Number two: Fair use of resources
Set some guidelines for use of the family computer and be very clear about the guidelines for using and gassing up the family car.

Number three: Overnight guests
Whether you like it or not, your college kid has probably been having sleepovers with his girlfriend while he was away at school. Is it okay with you if he brings her home for a sleepover in his room at your house?

Number four: Chores
A big holiday meal with no help from your adult kids could lead you fuming. Make sure you talk about what your expectations are beforehand so your adult kids doesn’t end up feeling imposed upon and you don’t end up resentful.

New study finds parents with adult children living at home are more depressed

A study released today in Britain shows that parents with adult children living at home are more likely to be depressed than empty nesters. Here are our top tips for avoiding depression when adult kids live at home:

•    Put yourself first: It’s difficult for parents to put their own needs ahead of the needs of their children, but when adult kids are at home, this is critical. Don’t change travel or retirement plans to support your adult kids unless they’re really in trouble. And don’t give up your den if it’s an important retreat – find an unused space where your adult child can settle in.

•    Establish ground rules: Adult kids might not like the word “rules” but they’re important for making sure everyone has the same expectations and everyone’s needs are met. Some families with adult children living at home find a contract can help formalize the rules and keep everyone on the same page.

•    Ask kids to contribute: They may not be able to afford market-value rent, but adult children living at home should help make a dent in the extra expenses they create (extra gas, higher phone bill, etc.), or at least contribute their labor to household chores. Parents with adult kids who help out around the house are less likely to feel taken advantage of or financially compromised.

•    Don’t take on too much: A college grad is capable of cleaning a bedroom, making a meal, and doing laundry. Don’t start providing the same “services” you did when kids were small or you’ll be setting yourself up for way more work than you should reasonably bear, and paving the way for resentment and other bad feelings.

•    Take time out for yourself and your spouse: Your kids are grown-ups now, so they don’t need (and probably don’t want) to spend all their time with you. Make time to do things for yourself, and be sure your spouse isn’t pushed aside – especially if your spouse is your kids’ step-parent.

•    Talk, talk, talk: Communication is the most important step in keeping parents and adult kids happy. Don’t hold in anger, don’t seethe, and be honest. Share your thoughts and work together to continually improve the situation.

The little things can make a big difference

Today we’re sharing a blog post from a woman whose adult son lives with her. She started off her day talking to her son about the great meal she was going to make that evening. When he said it sounded good, she assumed he’d be home to help her eat it.

After a lot of work in the kitchen and a few hours waiting for him to show, it became clear the adult son wasn’t coming home for dinner. When his mom asked him what happened, he said that just because he said the dinner sounded good didn’t mean he’d planned on eating it.

For the mom, this was pretty frustrating, as you can imagine. When parents and kids try to navigate the uncharted waters of living together as adults, small misunderstandings can lead to massive frustration, and even build resentment. It’s important for everyone to talk openly with one another, and to make it clear what things matter to them. Reading this mom’s blog, it’s clear that preparing a meal is an act of love for her — but maybe her son doesn’t get that because she’s always been the one who made his dinners.

You can read the blog post here.

As you read it, think about any niggling details that may be bothering you in your own relationship with your adult kids living at home. Then resolve to talk about those feelings the next time you have a chance. If you need some help working on your communication strategy, our book has some great tips and resources for you to use.

Life with 'boomerang kids' can bring some conflicts

We were quoted in an article about adult children living at home in today’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

“The communication part is so important,” says Christina Newberry, 31, of Vancouver, British Columbia, whose Web site,, markets a $27.97 contract for parents and children that lists the ground rules in advance.

“Conversations are helpful, but it can be really difficult when you’re having a fight to remember exactly what you agreed to do or not do,” said Ms. Newberry. “Agreeing on the rules ahead of time is a really helpful way to make sure everyone is on the same page.”

How will Gen Y (your kids?) cope with the recession?

A new article from looks at the impact of the recession on the so-far easy lifestyles of Generation Y, many of whom have the financial buffer of still living at home.

The article figures Generation Y is going to be just fine:

Of all the generations, gen Y is the one most likely to cope well. Their extended “adultescence”, with no spouse, children or mortgage, means they will be the last to rein in their spending. Although their confidence – after a lifetime of being told they’re infallible – will be shaken, Salt [a demographer with KPMG] believes their adaptability will kick in as a survival mechanism.

If you’re dealing with Generation Y-ers who have recently returned to the nest, a solid communications strategy will be key to making the situation livable for everyone — including the kids with the shaken confidence and possibly bruised egos. You can find tips for communication with your adult children moving home here.